Quinoa (pronounced "keen-wah") is a nutrient-rich ancient whole grain. It has been a staple of South American diets for centuries and has gained popularity around the world in recent years due to its health benefits. The simple nutty flavour and light and slightly crunchy texture make quinoa a great substitute to white rice. But did you know that quinoa is a hardy plant that is easy to grow in most climates?
You can simply plant organic quinoa seeds from the supermarket. The seeds can planted straight into the ground or in containers. Early June is a great time of year to start the seeds across North America and Europe. Seeds planted directly into the ground will grow to about 5-6 feet tall, seeds planted in containers will grow to about 2 feet tall.
In both circumstances the plants will grow a mass of millet-like seeds on the top of the plant and green spade shaped leaves which can also be used as a salad green. The plants should be watered and fertilized for best results, but they are generally very hardy and low-maintenance.
In the fall, when the plants start to turn brown you can trim the stalks and collect the seeds. The seeds naturally have a bitter coating which deter birds, but also compromise the taste of the harvest.
The bitter coating can be washed away. We've found that the best way to harvest the seeds is to soak the stalks in water with a drop of dish soap for a few minutes to remove the coating and any insects (as shown above in picture 3 and 4). Hang the stalks upside down and let them dry out. Then simple pull the mass of seed of the stalk with your thumb and forefinger.
After removing the mass of seeds simply grind the seeds lightly with your finger or a mortar and pestle. The small white seeds will separate from their casings and if soak the ground up seed heads in water the edible quinoa seeds will sink and the pulp will float, making it easy to separate and dry the seeds.
In a 3' by 6" wide and 6" deep container I was able to grow about one cup of quinoa. It added to a wonderful meal for two in late September.
It's easy, cheap, productive, and doesn't take up much space. Why not try growing some in a container or in your garden this year?
Related posts on Re-nest.com:
• Five Ways to Eat: Quinoa